By Matt Vensel
4:35 PM EDT, October 30, 2013
When rookie defensive lineman Brandon Williams arrived at the office Wednesday and learned that his mentor was no longer employed at the company, he reached for his phone and typed him a text message.
“Thanks for everything you’ve done for me,” Williams wrote. “Thanks for teaching me how to be a pro.”
The release of defensive end Marcus Spears and free safety Michael Huff caught many players, including Williams, off guard Wednesday. The veteran players who have seen teammates come and go before quickly shrugged it off. But for a rookie like Williams, saying goodbye to Spears was a new experience.
“He’s a great guy, a great friend, a mentor. Any time I needed help, I could call him. He was just an all-around great person,” he said. “It [stinks] to see him go. It’s different in the meeting rooms. But at the same time, as harsh as it may sound, the show must go on. You’ve got to continue to do your thing.”
With Spears gone, Williams will now be asked to do his thing more often. Spears was the top backup on the defensive line and played 142 snaps in five games. Williams is expected to pick up some of the slack, along with second-year defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson and fourth-year nose tackle Terence Cody, with Spears out of the mix.
Starting defensive end Chris Canty said “scholarship is over” for the youngsters and coach John Harbaugh believes Williams and Tyson are ready to take on larger roles.
“Those guys are ready. Both of them are ready to play in a starting-type rotation,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve proven it already by the way they’ve played. We have no concerns about that at all. They’re going to play well.”
A toe injury sidelined Williams for the first three weeks of the season. He has averaged about 14 snaps per game since making his NFL debut. With a sack, a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery, Williams has made an impact in limited action at nose tackle and defensive tackle.
Cody, who has been sidelined with a sprained left knee, has played 43 snaps on defense this season. Tyson has played 39. Neither has stood out as much as Williams.
At 6 feet 1 and 335 pounds, the rookie feels he has held up fine physically. He said the biggest challenge has been the mental aspect of the game, having to think on his feet.
“Being a rookie, you think about the scheme, you think about the plays and then you’ve got to think about what this guy in front of you could do,” the third-round pick said. “I feel a lot more comfortable now. I’m definitely ready for a bigger load. That would be amazing, to do a little bit more and show off my talent. I’m ready.”
And while it is probably a bittersweet feeling knowing that the release of Spears created a bigger opportunity for him, Williams said he knows Spears is pulling for him.
“He told me, ‘Go out there and do your job. You know what you’ve got to do,’” Williams said. “‘And hey, hit me up in the offseason and we’ll go hunting together.’”
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